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The Impact of Longer Lives on Society

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Unexpected things are happening to older people in our society. And these unexpected things are leading to unexpected outcomes. As little as 15 years ago, demographers expected that that ageing had plateaued and peaked at approximately 85 years but society surprised itself when people continuously exceeded beyond the expectations with people often hitting the century mark. Scientists now believe that it is possible for the plateau to continue to rise as medical advances continue. However, there are some unexpected medical and societal repercussions.

Society may now have to deal with the burden of higher taxes as publically funded healthcare and ageing facilities experience higher demands.  As people age, their bodies demand different care and many healthcare practitioners are not trained to deal with these issues. In fact, in many places geriatricians are in short supply and many of them are headed for retirement themselves. This creates a serious job shortage and a bidding war for skilled labour. Many of these are publically funded institutions using public funds, indicating tax rises may be in our future.

China is in a particularly tough spot that was compounded as a result of the one-child policy. They now have a larger proportion of their population headed towards their senior years with fewer left to fill the labour void and paying the suitable taxes.

Robotics is to be considered as it has replaced large swathes of the workforce in many sectors. Many are apprehensive to the use of robotics in aged care in case of dehumanizing the process and there are many tasks that technology simply can not do at this stage.

As people age, you would expect them to spend more on healthcare. As a comprehensive whole, this is true but healthcare spending increases dramatically 2 years before death no matter if you are an adolescent or a senior. On average, near death spending is the most expensive of all medical expenditure in one’s lifetime.  As a cohort, those over 65 spend more on healthcare as that is statically when more people pass away. In the upcoming years, larger amounts of people are entering this bracket, causing the rise in costs.

As a result of this longer life expectancy, and a retirement age traditionally being in the sixties, many people are now spending much longer portions of their lives in retirement then ever before. Even though people are still extremely able at this age, the retirement age hasn’t altered in any significant way. Many organizations have set retirement ages that forces employees to stop working at a certain age. Logically, it is more expensive to fund a longer retirement period but as life expectancy grew exceptionally in the past few decades many retired thinking that they would live shorter lives and planned their finances accordingly.

Overall, unexpected costs are shocking people but not as much as the potential of the human body. If scientists could not have predicted to live this long 15 years ago, how much can be predicted about the future of ageing? How long can the human body last and how will that impact the future of society (will people work longer?) and aged care? And how will that impact the associated costs?

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